Total Rail Solutions (TRS) was founded in January 2007, primarily as a consultancy business, with a £200,000 turnover. However, by late 2008, the company began to develop into other markets within the rail industry, especially the provision of operated and managed road-rail plant which it was able to buy second-hand. In the process, TRS obtained a Rail Plant Operating Company Licence.
The years 2009 to 2013 saw the company grow from strength to strength and, with the start of CP5 imminent, a decision was made by the owners to invest for the future. A plan to give TRS the newest fleet of machines in the UK was drawn up, on the proviso that the new fleet was designed for today’s modern railway rather than just going with existing designs.
Roll forward four years and, following a £12 million investment, the Basingstoke-based company has grown such that it now has a turnover in the region of £28 million annually and around 83 machines. Most of the fleet of mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) and road-rail vehicles (RRVs) is under three years old, making this the most up-to-date fleet of specialist plant available to the UK rail industry.
Crucial to the company’s recent successes, according to Paul Bateman, TRS chief operating officer, has been the partnership with GOS Tool & Engineering Services (GOS). TRS made the contact with GOS owner Neil Gregory, realising the need to invest in a modern and expanding fleet. TRS was looking at the options for doing this and made the choice that GOS had the expertise and facilities to assist in designing and building a new generation of RRV machines.
GOS had been working with Doosan for over 10 years. The high levels of reliability and OEM support gave TRS the confidence to pick the new Doosan DX170 machines as the base for its new fleet of RRVs.
Having taken delivery of the first Doosan DX170 in 2014, and being very pleased with the outcome, the two companies began collaborating on the renewal and enlargement of the TRS fleet, starting with an initial order for six Doosan-based machines. These machines have delivered industry-leading availability and reliability and have led to continued investment by TRS with GOS.
The 20th Doosan
When Rail Engineer met up with Paul and Neil at the GOS works, the 20th Doosan-based RRV was parked outside the workshops in gleaming new paint and TRS livery, awaiting delivery to its customer. They shook hands beside the machine for a photograph to accompany this article, in recognition of the completion of TRS’s three-year investment programme. This delivery makes TRS the first operator in the UK to have taken delivery of 20 new Doosan-based excavators, not to mention three Doosan RRV cranes!
Commenting upon the partnership and the choice of Doosan-based machines, Neil said: “We both took a chance, the relationship has been very good for both of us.”
A key part of the excellent relationship between the companies has been the understanding between them at a technical level, led by Luke Hersee, TRS head of operations, and GOS’s director of rail engineering Carl Jones. Encouraged by their respective bosses, and inspired by the requirements of customers, these two and their teams have innovated and developed many new modifications and improvements to the machines in the TRS fleet.
One of the most important of these has been ‘the long dipper’, a 5.5-metre-long dipper arm for the RRVs that has proven so successful with the TRS clients that, according to Paul, all the standard dippers are now laid up at his depot whilst the machines almost always go out to site with the long ones fitted. This device was developed and brought into use about two years ago.
GOS’s design, development and fabrication skills have been vital to the success of this piece of equipment, ensuring that it has the strength and robustness required on site, whilst also being sufficiently light to maximise the lifting capacity available.
Rail Engineer was given the opportunity to walk around the GOS workshops and assembly shop, guided by Neil. The range of machinery and skills on display was very impressive. The latest CNC techniques are employed to cut and profile parts while coded welders use modern equipment to assemble the pieces into fabrications for items such as rail trailers, dipper arms and more.
In the assembly shop was a mobile flash butt welding RRV. Based on a Doosan machine, it was one of several being produced for a railway in Australia, and almost ready for the 45-odd days at sea that will see it delivered to its purchasers. Other machines there were RRVs from UK plant companies – some new, some old ones under refurbishment.
There were some very interesting machines being used in the workshop, including a couple of old Herbert lathes that the writer’s father-in-law would have recognised. Old, but still very much productive. There was an 84″ Lumsden rotary grinding machine eight feet in diameter, and a lathe holding work, 5 metres between centres. There were also facilities for heat-treating components.
Quality control is tight, with raw materials being marked and tracked right through to the finished article. Details such as the supplier and relevant certification documents can be traced and linked to completed items. Welding is only carried out by fully qualified individuals, and GOS employs an NDT (non-destructive testing) consultant who carries out random and unannounced tests on welds in the workshops in addition to any testing specified by a client.
18 months ago, TRS and GOS collaborated on the introduction of hydrostatic drives to the DX170 fleet. Reliance upon friction between the rubber tyres of the road wheels and the steel rail ones had its limitations. These restricted the capabilities of the machines, particularly when operating on gradients or in difficult conditions. The hydrostatic drive direct to the rail wheels eliminates those issues completely.
Slightly more recently came the introduction of RRV cranes, based again on a Doosan machine. For the size and weight of the resultant crane, it has extremely competitive reach and lifting capacities. It is self-levelling on cant up to 200mm and, when levelled, has 360-degree capability. The maximum load is 12 tonnes, to a maximum height of 16 metres, and the maximum radius of operation is 15.5 metres. Like the other machines in the TRS fleet, these cranes have proven to be popular and are in high demand with users.
Of course, such new developments are not always right first time, but the working relationships between the two company teams are such that the focus, when problems do occur, is always upon solving the issues.
TRS participates in the Rail Plant Performance System (Rail PPS), a web-based plant performance monitoring system developed specifically for Network Rail and managed by the IP Track plant reliability team. Initially a little nervous about getting into this, Paul told Rail Engineer that the company is now reaping benefits from taking it on. It shows, through industry-leading statistics such as availability and reliability, that TRS’s investment in new machines and its development work with GOS is delivering the goods.
Paul and Neil told Rail Engineer that they find that the Doosan-based machines have a very high level of reliability, consequently the TRS machines are in high demand.
TRS has a number of framework agreements in place with a selection of companies such as AMCO and Siemens. To support these and other clients, the company is committed to future investment plans such as the one with GOS.
Both companies see that the economic environment has improved markedly in the last 10 years, but they see the need for major projects such as Crossrail and HS2 to maintain confidence across the industry. Finance may be more readily available, but companies will only take the risk of using it if they see continuity and predictability of profitable workload far enough into the future to make that worthwhile.
At the same time, TRS sees the need for investment in new plant and techniques. Issues such as the ever-reducing track access available on the railway mean that there is always going to be the requirement to find new approaches to getting the work done.
To finish with a quotation from Paul: “We (TRS) want to be set apart from the crowd, to be at the forefront of innovation and design. If we see a need in the market and there’s a business case for it, we will go ahead and buy one.”
With companies like TRS, supported by others like GOS, there is room for real optimism about the future.
Read more: Read the May issue of Rail Engineer here